U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court Revives Grandma's Case Against Officials Who Sent Her to Men's Jail

Fior Pichardo de Veloz was on her way to Miami for the birth of her grandchild when a not-so-funny thing happened.

She was arrested on old drug charges, but that wasn't it. What happened next made all the newspapers: police took her to the men's jail.

It got worse. That's why she sued in Pichardo de Veloz v. Miami-Dade County.

No Man

A county nurse falsely told police that Pichardo was a transgender man, the lawsuit said. A doctor didn't physically check, and so officials sent Pichardo to the men's jail.

For 10 hours, she feared for her life because she was surrounded by about 40 men in custody. She felt "psychologically assaulted because everyone looked at her as if she was a piñata," she told an investigator.

Officers then strip-searched her and discovered the mistake. In her lawsuit, Pichardo said the male officers laughed at her.

Pichardo, who is a lawyer and elected official in the Dominican Republic, later sued over the mix-up. A trial judge dismissed her case, however, saying the doctor and nurse were entitled to immunity.

No Immunity

The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. Judge Frank Hull, a woman, wrote the opinion.

The appeals court said Pichardo had a plausible claim the nurse and doctor were deliberately indifferent to her health and safety. They were not immune from suit because the constitutional violation was obvious, the panel said.

"Every reasonable prison officer and medical personnel would have known that wrongfully misclassifying a biological female as a male inmate and placing that female in the male population of a detention facility was unlawful." Hull wrote.

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